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G’da should look at travel industry in Barbados

Aircrafts operated by Delta and JetBlue on the tarmac at MBIA

A leading airline industry official in Grenada wants those running the sector on the island to take a close look at how neighbouring Barbados is bouncing back following the fall-out from the coronavirus pandemic.

In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY, the official who did not want to be identified said that Barbados has no end of flights touching down at the Grantley Adams International Airport on a daily basis at the moment as compared to the small numbers at Grenada’s international airport in the south of the island.

“They are doing bloody magnificent – whatever they are doing,” he said.

The official said that Virgin Atlantic now has 16 flights a week to Barbados and British Airways is also doing eleven flights a week to Grantley Adams.

“The British (Airways) has now put on their largest aircraft the triple-7 Dash-300 and they have eleven terminators to Barbados. This is huge,” he remarked.

According to the official the whole load from BA is going directly to Barbados and nowhere else in the region as the eleven flights are direct non-stop to Barbados and then back to the United Kingdom.

He said the industry is now back up and running in neighbouring Barbados with the Dutch airline KLM and Air Lingus, an Irish airline also flying hundreds of passengers to Barbados.

He pointed out that there were three flights each week from Air Lingus and KLM from Amsterdam to Barbados and that Condor and Lufthansa have resumed services that were cancelled due to Covid-19.

The official questioned the rationale of the decision-makers within the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA) to hire a Bajan as Chief Executive Officer (CTO) at such a huge price tag when the island is not doing well in the industry as a result of the pandemic.

He charged that the CEO is not to be totally blamed since some of them serving on the authority are clueless when it comes to the airline industry.

“This (Barbados lady) has done nothing for the whole year – it’s not really her fault because her hands are tied,” he said.

According to the top airline industry executive “the problem that we have in Grenada is that we are still going for core routes – the same London, New York, Miami and Toronto”.

He said it is time the officials on the island start to consider doing “the odd flight” from places like Montreal to Grenada and other areas in North America and Europe to bring more visitors to MBIA.

He cited Barbados as a case in point where the island uses Air Lingus to pick up travelers in Cork, Dublin, and Shannon, and additional flights from Manchester to Barbados, as well as connecting flights with Virgin Atlantic to Edinburgh and direct to Grantley Adams.

“These extra places (to get travelers) have their own catchment areas,” he quipped.

According to the airline industry executive, travelers from some parts of the world will seize the opportunity if available to explore the Caribbean on one of these flights rather than travel to places like Morocco.

“We do not have any connection – we really don’t have a line to say Martinique where we could get some French people coming in – it’s just the same thing all over,” he said.

The official was critical of those running GTA, describing the outfit as “the same old boys” who he said “carve it up for themselves” and enjoy the fruits of the industry.

“The same players rubbing shoulders and dipping their hands in the pot,” he added.

The official also took issue with government for demanding travel agents to pay a $1000.00 annual license fee at a time when the industry is virtually dead.

He referred to it as an outdated legislation going back more than 25 years ago under the Nicholas Brathwaite-led Congress administration.

He said that shopping online to purchase tickets is now “a big hit” by travelers and most travel agents have virtually gone out of business as people can make their own online bookings.

“There are no rooms for agents since the commissions were disbanded more than 10 years ago. There is no commission – you don’t get anything from the airline except service fees and if a person cancels you may make a little something,” he added.

He described the demand for the Travel Agency fee by government as “absurd.”

“What do we get for this license? Nothing. We used to have 13 travel agent businesses but now it has gone down to only three. The whole thing is comical,” he said.